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  Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 21:38 GMT 22:38 UK
Chambers proves doubters wrong
Chambers steps up to receive his gold medal
Chambers tastes European gold for the first time

I've never had Rudyard Kipling down as much of an athletics fan, but his famous lines from 'If' could have been written to describe Dwain Chambers' European 100m triumph.

It was a race of nerve-shredding tension, a 9.96secs 100m that took nearly six minutes to run.

Three times the continent's best leapt from their blocks ahead of the crack from starter's pistol.

Each time they had to rein back the speed, turn back to the line and feel the pressure crank up another couple of notches.

Chambers celebrates reaching the line first
Chambers finished ahead of team-mate Campbell

Who was it who kept his head when all around were losing theirs?

From the moment he first stepped to his blocks, Chambers looked fiercely serious, almost menacing in his concentration.

There was a wave to the crowd, but a cursory one. All thoughts were turned inward.

Reigning European champion Darren Campbell also stood still on the line, sucking the crucifix that hangs on the gold chain around his neck.

But he cracked first. First, he waved his hand to indicate that he needed more time.

Then, after Greek dangerman Georgios Theodoridis had false-started once, Campbell followed suit.

On Chambers' left, Francis Obikwelu could not disguise his frustration.

He yelled out, gestured at no-one in particular and stalked back to his marks.

All season Chambers has shown signs of finally maturing into a world-class sprinter capable of handling the big occasions and dealing with his own demons.


I was even questioning myself, but that's one of the reasons I don't read the papers
Dwain Chambers

On Wednesday night, he proved himself in the most demanding circumstances, in an immense test of character.

The shadow of Manchester and the Commonwealth Games has hung over him all week long.

It wasn't just the four poor starts he had there and his shoulder injury which threatened his chances of a crucial, decent start in Munich.

The allegations that he had faked the cramp that cut him down in the Manchester final nust also have been running through his mind.

Those comments angered both him and his coach Mike McFarlane.

But who trusted himself when all men doubted him?

"It's been a hard year for me," said Chambers afterwards. "I've been running really consistently but I had that downfall in the Commonwealths and it was really hard to keep myself up mentally.

"I was even questioning myself, but that's one of the reasons I don't read the papers.

"It was hard but I've gone and proved it to myself and everyone else that I am a championship performer.

"I've always had problems with false starts, keeping my composure.

Dwain Chambers poses with his gold medal
Chambers has bounced back after Commonwealth dismay
"But I told myself this time not to think about it, not to sweat it, keep your composure and you can go out there and win gold."

With a touch of class and sweet irony, Chambers got the fastest start of the lot when it really counted.

Once up, he ran the race he and McFarlane had long planned, the perfect blend of muscular power and total relaxation.

While the arms pumped and drove the legs through, the skin on his cheeks bounced around free of tension.

There was rain in the air, a slight headwind and enough of a chill in the stadium for McFarlane high in the stands to be wearing a big coat and a cap.

And Chambers still managed to break his personal best.

A time of 9.96secs and the gold - who's doubting him now?


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